6 February 2013

Namibia: Reporters Evicted From Court

Windhoek — Judge Nate Ndauendapo yesterday ordered that the court be cleared of everyone in attendance, including the media, heeding a request by Prosecutor Jack Eichab.

This came after Eichab informed the court that a 15-year-old witness to an alleged rape indicated to him that she did not feel comfortable testifying in front of the inquisitive media and others.

Prosecutor Eichab also told the judge that the witness further wanted the accused to be absent from the courtroom. All of this happened during the trial of 24-year-old Jack Thomas who is facing one count of murder, two counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances, one count of rape, one count of kidnapping and one count of indecent assault.

Thomas on Monday denied all the charges against him. The State alleges that Thomas killed and robbed Likius Ngesheya during the period February 25-26, 2008 at the farm Kaalvlakte in the Bethanie District, whereafter he stole a Ford Courier pick-up truck (bakkie) that was in the lawful possession of Ngesheya and drove to the farm Gellap Ost in the Keetmanshoop District, where he raped the complainant and robbed her and her daughter of a Nissan 1400 pick-up truck and approximately N$2 700 in cash.

It is further alleged that Thomas then forced the complainant into the vehicle and drove with her to Keetmanshoop. While on the way he forced her to touch his genitals. According to the indictment, the complainant managed to escape when Thomas stopped at a service station to refuel in Keetmanshoop.

The State's first witness, Dr Danelle Groenewald took the stand yesterday and related to the court that while she was at her home in Keetmanshoop watching television she received a call on her cellphone from the complainant. She further testified that the complainant was very incoherent and she could only make out that she was raped and in need of urgent medical assistance.

Groenewald told Judge Ndauendapo that she asked the complainant to give the phone to a bystander and then instructed the person to take the woman to her surgery. According to Groenewald, the complainant was a longstanding patient of hers and when she arrived at her consulting room, she found the complainant there in the company of an unknown person.

She further testified that during her examination the complainant seemed very distraught and that she administered a sedative to calm her down. Groenewald further explained that the complainant narrated to her that she was assaulted and raped by an unknown person, and that she appeared disheveled and dirty. According to Groenewald, she discovered a wound on the complainant's thigh, not very deep and about 3cm long.

She further found various abrasions on the complainant's jaw and also discovered that she had some broken nails. The complainant's clothes were also stained and she also found a stain on the crotch of the complainant's clothing, testified the doctor. Groenewald also told Judge Ndauendapo that she suggested to the complainant that they should go to the Keetmanshoop State Hospital for a more thorough examination to be conducted.

"As I was rather inexperienced I wanted the government medical officer to process the rape kit," Groenewald said. At the state hospital an examination was conducted, she said, but indicated that she herself conducted the vaginal examination since the complainant was her patient and comfortable with her.

She further explained that during her examination she found injuries that could be the result of forced intercourse or the result of a severe infection. She also told the court that she found fluid on the genitals of the complainant and that the fluid could have been semen.

Groenewald said that when she was done with the examination, she and the government doctor sealed everything and handed it over to the police officers present, and that she then took the complainant back to her consulting rooms where she administered anti-retrovirals for the prevention of HIV transmission.

During cross-examination, Monty Karuaihe for the defence wanted to know from the witness whether she administered any contraceptives to the complainant as it is normally standard procedure in a rape situation to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Groenewald replied that she wanted to, but that the complainant did not want it since she was apparently sterilised years back.

The complainant is expected to testify today and Eichab has already indicated to Judge Ndauendapo that he will lodge another application to the court to have the courtroom cleared as the complainant is also not comfortable testifying in public.

Karuaihe on the other hand indicated that he will object, since the complainant is a mature person and should not be offered preferential or special treatment to the detriment of his client. The case continues and Thomas remains in custody.

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